What is Poland like?
On the thirtieth day after the plane crash at Smolensk, according to the liturgical custom of the Church, we remembered the national drama and asked for God’s mercy for the victims’ souls.
On that day I was in the Basilica of the Holy Cross, one of the most beautiful churches in Warsaw, full of objects reminding us of the history of the Church and our Christian nation. Realising the idea, which had originated during the first days after the crash and had been accepted by Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz, a special Mass was celebrated in Latin and its form was the old, extraordinary Roman rite (the so-called Tridentine liturgy). During the Mass the choir and orchestra of the Fryderyk Chopin University performed the whole ‘Requiem’ by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the work performed in various concerts and known for its numerous recordings, the work composed for funeral Mass.
The Church was full of people. I could see the priest surrounded by the assistants looking at the same direction like us – towards the crucifix in the main altarpiece. The black of the liturgical robes emphasized the reality of death through which man goes as if going through a dark valley. There was a big cross on the celebrant’s robe…
We prayed the prayers through which the Church had spoken to God for ages, asking him for mercy for the souls of the deceased. The choir sang the same lyrics. The music and singing did not accompany this Mass, did not overwhelm it but became its integral part. Some colourful musical ‘icon’ was spread between us and the altar.
Fr Jacek Salij delivered a homily from the pulpit of this Church of the Holy Cross. He spoke about offering our pain to God, about our Polish drama embracing Katyn 1940 – Smolensk 2010 and finally, about the possible good fruits of the national trauma. So our mourning for the victims ended. Leaving the church, with hearts full of sorrow, we wanted to tell Lord God that we wanted to love Poland nobler, with the courage of conversion when the grace comes.
Since Poland is also a grace. Our birthplace and the place where we live. Perhaps our lives can be hard at times but we live at the place where so many ladders have been put to lead to heaven: our history, examples of heroes-saints, teachings of our sages. Sometimes man’s life looks like a labyrinth but in the Polish labyrinth there are any routes ‘upwards’, many paths over obstacles. That’s why Poland is so often wiser than Poles!
While I am writing this reflection the contents of the pilots’ conversations were revealed. These were the last moments before the crash. They were talking about various things; they were joking, doing so many ordinary activities. Just before the crash one can hear how they tried to avoid it… And then, at the very end of the flight, one could hear, ‘Jesus, Jesus!’
Passer-by, tell Poland that it was her that taught us these words and gave us this Most Holy Name for our ways.